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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Foolish Beat? Hardly...

One thing that I have been amazed by is seeing young people do extraordinary things and do things that most adults wish they could do.

In the world today, it is probably tougher than ever to be a kid.  Not only do they have the struggle to find yourself in the world while dealing with peers, parents, teachers, and figures of authority, but they also have to deal with things that I never had to face when I was a child.  When I was a kid, there were no cell phones or Internet, kids stayed outside all day to play unsupervised, and we did things that would be considered extremely unsafe by today's standards.

Believe it or not, there was a time in which drinking out of a garden hose was not even considered to be a bad thing.  I did it each and every summer, and I'd like to think that I turned out just fine.

But there comes a point in which you have to make a decision.  I think it's great that people want to keep kids safe, and they certainly do deserve to have places to play and learn that are as safe as possible.  But at the same time, I don't think that we need to have helicopter parents who oversee every single thing that a child does, or that we feel the need to control the schedule of a child, or cover their entire play area in gigantic sheets of bubblewrap either. 

And you want to know why that is?  Because I feel that the more we try to wrap kids inside of a cocoon like atmosphere, the more we stifle their creativity and the less well-rounded they become.  I think that's why I get so angry whenever parents don't do enough to save arts programs from getting cut.  But I think I get even more angry with parents who outright discourage their children from pursuing careers in art, music, filmmaking, or drama because of their belief that they know what is best for their children, and that belief doesn't include expressing their creative side.  And you might think that I don't know what I'm talking about, but I've heard so many stories of kids being discouraged to express themselves through art and writing that it makes me very sad.  I don't even want to begin to imagine a world without artists, writers, actors, painters, choreographers, and calligraphers.  I'm not saying that we need to get rid of doctors, lawyers, bank tellers, accountants, judges, and dentists.  We definitely need those as well.  I'm just saying that parents should let their children express themselves the best way they know how, and let them find out what interests them.

Just take a look at some of the kids from "MasterChef Juniors".  These are kids that were between the ages of 8-14 cooking dishes that the average person never even heard of, let alone tasted.  And yet, all of these children had one thing in common.  They had parents or guardians in their lives who really supported them in their creative goals, and the end result was a group of talented young chefs who could cook circles around some of their adult counterparts.

(I know they could certainly cook circles around me.  I can't even make microwave popcorn without burning it.)

Of course, I suppose you're wondering where I'm going with this train of thought.  The point I'm trying to make is that if one has the right support system that will support and encourage them, they can achieve greatness at any age.

Such as the case of today's
Sunday Jukebox spotlight.

We're going to meet a girl who started off being a performer at an early age.  She was five years old when she began performing with her sisters and cousin at a community theatre group in Merrick, New York - a suburban community located on Long Island.  It was also right around this time that she wrote her very first song!  That's right!  She wrote her very first song at the age of five.

Well, maybe the song "Make Sure You Know Your Classroom" wouldn't crack the Billboard Hot 100.  However, she'd eventually achieve her dream of having a #1 hit single.  And when she did make that dream come true, she would become a Guinness World Record holder...a record that has remained unbroken since 1988.

This was the song that helped give Debbie Gibson her first #1 hit...a song which topped the charts twenty-six years ago this week.

ARTIST:  Debbie Gibson
SONG:  Foolish Beat
ALBUM:  Out of the Blue
DATE RELEASED:  February 11, 1988

These days, she goes by the name Deborah, but back in the late 1980s, she went by Debbie, the girl who made teen pop cool long before Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, or Ariana Grande even sang their first notes.  And I'm old enough to remember when Debbie Gibson was just one of several teen girls who tried their hand at singing.  I even seem to remember the constant comparisons between Debbie Gibson and "I Think We're Alone Now" singer Tiffany.

Now, not to take away from Tiffany's success, but I always seemed to prefer Debbie Gibson.  She had a pleasant voice, her songs were mostly happy songs, and at the very least she wrote and recorded almost every song she sang - unlike Tiffany whose two biggest hits were cover versions of singles from the 1960s.

Debbie's debut album was entitled "Out of the Blue", which was released on August 18, 1987 - approximately two weeks shy of Debbie's 17th birthday (Debbie's date of birth is August 31, 1970 - just in case you were wondering.)  And, it was certainly an album that did better than expected.  Of the ten tracks that were on the album, five were released as singles.  "Foolish Beat" was the only single from the album that hit #1 on the Billboard Charts, but the other four singles did quite well.  "Only In My Dreams" reached #4, as did "Shake Your Love".  The title track became a #3 hit for Gibson, while "Staying Together" stalled at #22.  But still, having four of your singles reach the Top 5 had to have been a fantastic career start.

Of course, "Foolish Beat" - the fourth single released from the album - was the biggest hit of the album.  And while it only stayed at the top of the charts for one week, the song about a relationship coming to an end and the heartbreak following afterward helped Debbie become the youngest female to write, produce, and perform a #1 single on the Billboard Charts.  When "Foolish Beat" hit #1 on June 25, 1988, Debbie was just two months shy of her 18th birthday.  It's a record that remains unbroken.

Yeah, just picture it.  A sixteen going on seventeen year old girl writing every single song that appeared on a ten-song album, and having four of those five singles hit the Top 5, of which one became a #1 hit before she was even allowed to legally vote in an election.  That's absolutely brilliant.  I couldn't even put together a science project at age sixteen, let alone a whole album.  That takes talent, passion, and dedication.

Of course, Debbie would go on to record more albums after her breakout hit.  Her 1989 album "Electric Youth" performed even better than her debut, and spawned another #1 hit with "Lost in Your Eyes", but her follow-up albums didn't quite match the success of her previous work.  Though, I admit that I do like some of Gibson's later work.  I'll post one of her songs from her 1993 album "Body, Mind, Soul" that I love, just to show you just how she matured as an artist since the early days when she was a squeaky clean pop starlet.

If anything, it'll provide mood music for the next part of this blog entry.  After all, I think that she had a lot of natural talent to put together a whole album, and I thought that her singing voice was (and still is) quite nice.  But I can't help but think that the reason why she was so creative was because she had a brilliant support system at home cheering her on throughout her entire journey.

Remember how I said that people could achieve greatness at any age if they had the right support system in their lives?  Well, luckily Debbie had the support of her entire family.  Her own mother tagged along with her while she performed at dance clubs all over the New York City area while at the same time making sure that Debbie continued her studies at high school (where she graduated with honours).  She also took on the role of Debbie's manager, making sure that Debbie got to all of her scheduled performances, and ensuring that she stayed grounded during the ride of her whole career, no matter what happened.  I think those family ties certainly helped keep Debbie on the straight and narrow, and as she transitioned from teen pop queen Debbie to the more mature and sultry Deborah Gibson, she did so seamlessly.

Oh, sure there was that time she did pose for Playboy Magazine...but it was in 2005 when Deborah was 35 years old.  By that time, I would hope that she knew what she was doing.  In fact, she did the shoot right around the time that she was promoting a single called "Naked", so I'd call that a great marketing opportunity.

The truth is that while Deborah Gibson isn't quite as well known on the charts as she used to be, she's done very well for herself.  She starred on Broadway, she appeared on a season of Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice", and she still records music today.

I guess it's true what they say.  Dreams can come true at any age.  The trick is that once the dream comes true you have to have both the maturity as well as the support system necessary to keep that dream alive without backtracking or derailing.  Fortunately, I think Deborah Gibson succeeded.  And as of right now, she still has a Guinness World Record.  A record that she achieved twenty-six years ago this week.

I really admire people who pursue their dreams and goals.  And if they can do it at an early age, awesome.  But even if they have to wait until they turn sixty-five or older, it's still considered a success story in my book.

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